So I can say "I have been playing the guitar since I was 6" but "I have been having a dog since I was 6" sounds incorrect. Why?
Question: So I can say "I have been playing the guitar since I was 6" but "I have been having a dog since I was 6" sounds incorrect. Why?
To play a guitar is an activity. It can have started in the past and be going on until now. Active verbs can be used progressively (with "to be" and "-ing").
To have a dog means to own a dog. The verb to "have" in the sense of possess is not usually used in the progressive tenses. It is not an active verb like "play" and does not take a direct object. (Though in some circumstances it is used progressively, let's ignore that for now.) If you want to show the fact your owning a dog began when you were six and is still part of your life, you have to say:
I have had a dog since I was six. (You have to use the present perfect.)
That's the formal answer for you.
(please note: there is an idiom in the English language which is: to have a cow, which means to express the fact you are upset. That can be used progressively: She's pretty angry. She's having a cow.)
Dynamic verbs such as "play", "work", "drink" etc. can express actions in progress, e.g. he is working, he has been working, they are drinking, they have been drinking. The Present Continuous and the Present Perfect Continuous are not normally used with stative verbs such as "be", "have" (possession), "belong", "want", "cost" etc. For a more comprehensive list, see this pdf file.
- He has a wife and two children. YES
- He is having a wife and two children. NO
- They are married. YES
- They are being married.NO
- He has been married since 2015 YES
- He has been being married since 2015 NO
- She has played the guitar since she was six. YES
- She has been playing the guitar since she was six. YES
- I have had a dog since I was six [years old] YES
- I have been having a dog since I was six [years old] NO
Mari-Lou's answer is correct for your context. However there's an important point to be careful of here.
He is having a wife and two children.
As Mari-Lou says, this is incorrect. But...
He is having his wife.
is grammatically correct, and means "he is having sex with his wife". It's rather old-fashioned, but it's perfectly valid English.
He is having a wife.
is less clearly correct, because "a wife" suggests that there could be more than one and you're not being specific about which. It may be correct in the context of a swingers' party though, or a polygamist with multiple wives.
And with that in mind,
I have been having a dog since I was 6.
is also grammatically correct - but it clearly does not mean what you intended it to mean!
Colloquial English has a lot of euphemisms for sex, excretion and other vulgarity. As a result, it's very easy for a non-native speaker to accidentally fall into a double-entendre which is amusing for native English speakers but potentially embarrassing for you. Be warned.
The verb "having" implies that you are experiencing, enduring, or undergoing something.
The sentence is grammatically correct, however, the present perfect tense usage coupled with the verb "having" implies that something isn't right. I believe it's because the verb "having" implies that there are factors outside of your control or that you are experiencing . Like: having a heart attack, having a baby, having a bad day, having an epiphany...